A former Wagner Group commander who fled to Norway in January in hopes of claiming asylum has been arrested on suspicion of trying to get back across the border into Russia, his lawyer says.
The reported arrest of ex-mercenary Andrey Medvedev comes after he was sentenced in April to 14 days in jail for disorderly conduct and for carrying an air gun in a public place, over his alleged role in a bar brawl in the Norwegian capital of Oslo in February.
But his Norwegian lawyer, Brynjulf Risnes, told Reuters Saturday that his client’s latest detainment hs been a misunderstanding.
“He was up there to see if he could find the place where he crossed [into Norway in January]. He was stopped when he was in a taxi. He was never near the border. . . . It was never his intention to cross the border [into Russia],” Risnes said.
When Medvedev first entered Norway through the country’s arctic border with Russia, he argued that he was seeking asylum because he was afraid for his life after seeing the killing and treatment of Russian prisoners in Ukraine, according to Reuters.
But then months later, Medvedev said in a YouTube video that he wanted to return to his homeland despite the risks, the news agency added.
During the trial earlier this year, the court had acquitted Medvedev of committing violence against police officers during his arrest in the bar brawl.
He admitted resisting arrest and spitting when he was put in handcuffs but denied kicking the officers, Risnes had said during the proceedings, according to the Associated Press.
“It is very good that he was acquitted for what was the most serious,” Risnes later told the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet following the verdict.
Medvedev said he had agreed to join the Wagner Group from July to November 2022 but had left after his contract was extended without his consent. He said he was willing to testify about any possible war crimes he witnessed, though he denied participating in any himself.
Norwegian police said in a statement later Friday that they had taken a man in his 20s into custody for attempting to illegally cross the border into Russia, but did not identify him, Reuters reports.
Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin was killed in a plane crash in Russia last month.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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